Review Summary: Josh Homme's musical tendrils branch yet again; Dave Grohl returns to the drum chair and John Paul Jones (whoever THAT is) provides the bottom end. Blues-rock from three guys who know how to do it.
...it's pretty much what I expected. The self-titled debut from this trio - Josh Homme, Dave Grohl, and John Paul Jones - bears Homme's signatures all over it. The fuzzy, repetitive riffs and mock-Elvis vocals make it sound like a Queens of the Stone Age album, circa Rated R, but it's the rhythm section which makes it extra-special. The lyrics find Homme pretty much at home (ho ho) with lines like "Don't hold it against me/Unless it gets hard" and "Slick back my hair/You know the devil's in there," but who cares? It's no more silly than Homme's normal stuff anyway. Musically, the album seems to be front-loaded, with the strong opening trio of "No One Loves Me and Neither Do I," "Mind Eraser, No Chaser," and "New Fang." Once it moves past "Scumbag Blues," you may begin to wonder if these cats have anything else up their sleeve.
I think this is a consequence of their sound, rather than the songs themselves. For the first half, it all sounds cool and retro and groovy. Then you start to wish that Grohl would change up the beat, that Jones would spice up that bassline, that Homme would play a solo, even. Songs are built around one, two, maybe three core ideas. If the order was reversed, so that we began with "Spinning in Daffodils," I suspect the same fatigue would set in. But then again, QOTSA's "Turning on the Screw" pulls the two-riffs-and-we're-done trick and works for me.
Regardless, it's a minor complaint, as repeated listens reveal that every song has something to recommend it, even if it's as subtle as Jones's "Trampled Underfoot" clavinet work on "Scumbag Blues," which is awesome. If you're someone who thought QOTSA went to hell after Nick Oliveri left, you may dislike this album. Again, it's definitely got Homme's fingerprints all over, but considering the diversity of 2007's Homme-penned Era Vulgaris*, you have to think that Them Crooked Vultures are more interested in playing than pandering, and I can respect that. Who wouldn't want to just jam when John Paul Jones is on bass? You can also tell they're having fun, as the silliness of the lyrics and Homme's impromptu catcalls attest (see the "Uh!" that ushers in the second half of "No One Loves Me..."). The riffs have a distinct feel, all heavy blues-rock that recalls nothing so much as "Out on the Tiles" and "Houses of the Holy." I wonder why that is?
If you find yourself intrigued at all by this strange mash of musicians, by all means pick this up. It's a solid album and another addition to Homme's vast resume. Dave Grohl keeps his mouth shut, excepting some background vocals, and John Paul Jones, to his credit, doesn't splay his playing all over the songs just because he's a legend. He keeps things simple and taut, which is how I'd describe the record as a whole. Good job everyone!
*And on that album; TCV's "Interlude With Ludes" straight-up lifts the vocal melody from "I'm Designer" off Era Vulgaris. Interesting?